F1 drivers opt for right to remain silent – Up and Down at Saudi GP


The die was cast for a thrilling 2023 F1 season in Saudi Arabia

2 Aston martin Fernando Alonso 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

Everything's great in Saudi – if you're this guy...

Grand Prix Photo

Another race breezes past DRS-style with little in the way of excitement but for Fernando Alonso’s podium charge yet again.

The FIA cottoned on to the idea and decided to throw in some penalty confusion to spice things up further, keeping everyone on tenterhooks as the third place trophy was handed round pass-the-parcel style.

When the music stopped it was Red Bull 1-2 to Aston’s third again, after a weekend of meek opposition to the Milton Keynes kids, more penalty gaffes and drivers insisting on saying nothing.

Here’s what was going up and down at the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP.

Goin’ Up: Verstappen’s first driveshaft

Max Verstappen Red Bull 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

Verstappen was able to get over the hump of reliability issues

Red Bull

When Max Verstappen’s driveshaft gave up the ghost in Jeddah Q2, F1 fans not of a Dutch persuasion rejoiced. Might we see a real race with Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso taking on Sergio Perez the day after?

Err, no. After the Mexican somewhat inevitably lost the lead to the Aston man at the start, his DRS-assisted slingshot back past later on also felt depressingly destined to happen.

Verstappen’s cruise up to second from 15th on the grid raised not a single eyebrow also.


Goin’ Down: Verstappen’s second driveshaft

Red Bull immediately fixed Verstappen’s problem, and despite another late scare due to a “weird noise” all the fun ended pretty soon with normal service being resumed. Boo.


Up: You’re nearly there Yuki

Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

New year, new Yuki?

Grand Prix Photo

Nothing but a decent haul of points seemed to hold Yuki Tsunoda’s attention in recent years, with the Japanese flyer more likely to throw his AlphaTauri into the scenery rather than bring it home safely.

In Bahrain and Saudi though the Tokyo kid played it safe, with a pair of eleventh places, so close to points. Is Yuki coming of age?


Down: Stewards winding back the stop watch

Nico Hülkenberg Haas 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

Even Hülkenberg found steward decisions confusing

Grand Prix Photo

Similar to farcical and mystifying penalties during the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s, the FIA has appeared to be going backwards in time with its recent stewarding decisions.

Takes 35 minutes to hand Alonso a penalty during the race – apparently for not correctly serving the first one – demoting him from the podium afterwards, then reverses its decision over three hours later. Wow.


Up: Unbelievable engineering

Franz Tost AlphaTauri 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

AlphaTauri almost laughably bad, according to Tost

Red Bull

Franz Tost hauled his AlphaTauri engineers over the coals in public because – according to him – the car’s rubbish. Great to see.


Down: Woeful Woking

McLaren Oscar Piastri 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

McLaren made hard work of Jeddah

Grand Prix Photo

Heroics from Oscar Piastri got the McLaren into Q3, but clonking his front wing on lap one set him up for a back of the pack scrap with Norris. The ‘Papaya Family’ must be in bits.


Down: More mystifying decisions

Aston martin Fernando Alonso 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

Conspiracy theorists at the ready

Grand Prix Photo

The FIA threw a safety car when Lance Stroll’s stricken car was completely off track – negating Alonso’s original. Did Aston need to stop the car on track? The conspiracy theories start here.


Down: The right to remain silent

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

Hamilton’s latest overcoat was louder than anything coming out of the drivers’ camp

Grand Prix Photo

With the FIA announcing prior to the season that F1 drivers making ‘political’ statements would be banned – later modified to only on the podium – the time was right for competitors to use their platform to denounce F1’s ever-expanding ‘world championship of very rich countries with appalling human rights issues’ in Saudi.

Everyone truly made use of their privilege to speak out by saying…nothing. Even Hamilton only stated his position by saying it was the “opposite” to the platitudes trotted out by the rest of the grid.